Struggle to reach quake trapped
Chinese rescuers are battling heavy rain and blocked roads to reach
thousands of people trapped or injured by Monday's devastating
Late on Tuesday, a few hundred soldiers reached the epicentre in
Wenchuan county, where an estimated 60,000 people remain missing.
They found 500 bodies within a few hours - but have still not
searched many devastated areas.
The official death toll is more than 12,000, and looks set to rise
Women cry over the body of their beloved family killed in
the rubbles of a junior high school building destroyed by
Monday's magnitude 7.9 earthquake in Dujiangyan, southwest
China's Sichuan Province Wednesday, May 14,
Thirty Chinese troops in the town of Yingxiu, in Wenchuan, rescued
300 injured residents, state news agency Xinhua said.
But of an estimated population of around 10,000, only 2,000 residents
were found alive, a local official said. "They could hear people under
the debris calling for help but no one could, because there were no
professional rescue teams," He Biao said.
The military says it will start dropping aid and medical supplies
into worst-hit regions as soon as weather conditions improve. While the
first relief efforts are only just reaching Wenchuan, almost 20,000
soldiers and armed police have deployed across the other parts of
Sichuan province badly hit by the quake, officials said.
Another 30,000 soldiers are en route to the area and face a daunting
In one city, Mianyang, 18,000 people are said to be buried under the
rubble, and in nearby Mianzhu, at least 4,800 are reported trapped.
Elsewhere, two schools have collapsed, each trapping nearly 1,000
students and staff.
In Shifang, where two chemical plants collapsed, releasing a huge
toxic cloud, about 600 people were reported dead and up to 2,300 still
buried. Sichuan Vice-Governor Li Chengyun said the death toll included:
7,395 in Mianyang, 2,648 in Deyang City, 959 in the provincial capital
Chengdu, 700 in Guangyuan City, and 161 in the Aba Tibetan and Qiang
Later there were reports that 3,000 were dead in Mianzhu. Prime
Minister Wen Jiabao promised no effort would be spared to rescue those
trapped and look after the survivors.
"We will save the people," he declared through a loudhailer to people
in Shifang. But he expressed frustration that rescue efforts were being
held up by testing conditions. "The disaster situation is worse than
expected, and the rescue sites are quite complex," he admitted.
The BBC's Michael Bristow, in Dujiangyan, says aftershocks have
struck regularly. People are too fearful to return to their homes, he
says, and are spending another night in the open, in heavy rain, with no
power or water. "I'm cold. I don't dare to sleep, and I'm worried a
building is going to fall down on me," 20-year-old waitress Tang Ling
told the Associated Press (AP).
"What's happened is so cruel. In one minute to have so many people
die is too tragic."
People have set up tents or makeshift shelters on almost any piece of
open land, even in the middle of road junctions. Some 10,000 refugees
were packed into Mianyang's Jiuzhou Gymnasium, where empty water
bottles, boxes of instant noodles and cigarette cartons littered the
ground, AP reported.
The health ministry has made an urgent appeal for people to give
blood to help the injured.
The 7.9-magnitude quake struck on Monday at 1428 local time (0628
GMT) and was felt as far away as Beijing and the Thai capital, Bangkok.
It was the worst to strike China in three decades - since more than
240,000 people were killed in Tangshan in 1976.
The worst affected area has been south-western Sichuan province, but
more than 300 deaths have also been reported in the neighbouring
provinces of Gansu and Shaanxi, and in Chongqing municipality.
China's Olympic Games organisers say they will scale down the route
of the torch through the country and there will be a minute's silence
when the next leg starts in the south-eastern city of Ruijin on
Wednesday. US President George W Bush expressed condolences to victims'
families, while the US, UK, the European Union, Japan, South Korea and
Taiwan reportedly offered aid.
China said it would gratefully accept international help to cope with